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From hands-on projects, volunteering and role-playing to immersive learning activities, schools in the UAE are proactively embracing experiential activities to empower students to lead their own learning.

In the fast-evolving world of education, it has become paramount for institutions to align their education strategies with the changing aspirations of students. Traditional teaching methods, though valuable, has given way to a student-led pedagogic approach that emphasises active learning experiences.

“Experiential learning strategies ensure that students are immersed in a variety of hands-on activities, whereby they are interactive with their environment,” says Gary Williams, Senior Executive Vice Principal, Al Yasat Private School.

Gary Williams

“Our teachers incorporate field trips and lab experiments for subjects like AP Biology. Our hydroponics curriculum ensures that our students learn through hands-on investigations therefore developing a deeper understanding,” Williams highlights.

Encouraging students to delve into their passions and put their classroom learning into practice in real-world scenarios cultivates their curiosity and enhances their problem-solving abilities. “Nurturing an experiential mindset in students entails immersing learners in practical encounters. This can be accomplished by arranging field excursions, internships, and inviting guest speakers,” explains Scott Pattison, Assistant Head Curriculum, Durham School Dubai.

Scott Pattison

At German International School Dubai (DISD), experiential learning begins as early as kindergarten, offering children an effective pathway to explore the world around them.

Michael Lummel

“With vinegar, baking soda and coloured glitter, our kindergarten children create their own little fireworks in a bowl in the fireworks experiment. DISD students formulate, verify or falsify hypotheses from early on in regular and standardised scientific procedures on fascinating topics. We have primary and kindergarten children collaborating in experiments in our top-notch secondary school labs,” says Michael Lummel, Principal.

Skills for life

Experiential learning offers valuable advantages by boosting learner’s adaptability, resilience, and creativity. “It equips them with vital life skills, ensuring their readiness for real-world challenges. Furthermore, this approach bridges the gap between theory and practical application, increasing the likelihood of memory retention which is all important for the standardised tests,” says Pattison.

From enhanced problem-solving abilities to higher retention and greater engagement, there are many benefits of incorporating learning that promotes real-life experiences. Encouraging students to make connections to a real-life situation hones their problem-solving skills, which are crucial in various aspects of life and work.

The study approach of Leams Education group, which runs a chain of schools including The Apple International, The Indian Academy, Dubai, The Apple International Community School, and The Oxford School, goes beyond conventional classroom education.

Nabil Lahir

“We actively engage our students in enriching hands-on experiences, such as sustainability projects. These projects not only foster creativity but also promote teamwork and problem-solving abilities among our students,” says Nabil Lahir, CEO, Leams Education.

The Indian Academy, Dubai, a Leams Education school, has recently been nominated for the Global Sustainability Awards, while one of its teachers has been recognised as a Sustainability Ambassador, underscoring the school’s commitment to environmental stewardship. “In addition to these accomplishments, all of our schools are proud participants in the Expo’s Climate Ambassador programme, which serves as a vital pathway to COP28. We firmly believe that these initiatives will mould our students into future sustainability leaders, instilling a profound sense of pride and accomplishment in them,” Lahir says.

Real-world benefits of social work

Volunteering is another great way to help students gain work experience and develop valuable connections and skills.

Leams Education, which adopted a school in rural India, offered the Year 13 students of The Oxford School the unique opportunity to teach English and Mathematics to their peers in an underprivileged community.

“This immersive learning experience not only enriched the young minds of our students but also contributed to shaping them into future citizens and leaders who understand the value of giving back to the society,” says Lahir.

Bridging education and employment

Job shadow opportunities and internships during school provide learners with invaluable experiences that help shape their future career paths. By actively promoting internship opportunities, schools in the UAE empower students make more informed career choices and prepare them for the transition from the classroom to the workplace.

Al Yasat Private School collaborates with a variety of local businesses, alumni, and organisations such as, NSTI, Youth of Sustainability, ADNOC, British Council, Bee’ah, Young ADIPEC and World Robotics, for internships and project opportunities for its students. “Our teachers are also able to integrate real-world challenges into the curriculum,” Williams says.

German International School Dubai reaches out to its partners such as Children´s City at Henkel Forscherwelt, Zayed University, Siemens and the Deutsche Telekom’s Junior Engineer Academy, for real-world experiences and to promote an entrepreneurial spirit in its students.

“Our unique CyberMentor programme connects German female scientists with our female students. We want to inspire girls to choose careers in science from early on. DISD primary and secondary students successfully participate in prestigious German science competitions including Jugend forscht and Jugend präsentiert, where they learn about young researchers in science. Our students achieve excellent results in science in the Abitur exam and their career choices in engineering or medicine are a logical consequence of our long-term ‘One school, one concept’ approach to STEM excellence in the school,” says Lummel.

Similarly, The Indian Academy Dubai also facilitates real-world learning experiences through internships, where its students collaborate with mentors. The school encourages students to intern with various departments of the school such as HR, IT, and administration. Additionally, it partners with several agencies, local employers and corporates across industries that offer short-term internships to its students.

“These experiences not only boost their confidence but also equip them with practical skills that they can bring back to the classroom. As educators, it is our duty to encourage students to step out of their comfort zones, and nurture qualities such as curiosity, determination, and courage,” says Lahir.